After reading Dinitia Smith‘s story about Robert Loomis, who’s just turned 80 and has spent a record 50 years as an editor at Random House, I feel very red-faced. Because Korda, Mayhew, Mehta and Gottlieb are names that trip easily off my publishing-wonk tongue, but Loomis? Alas, my industry vocabulary hadn’t included him – until now. But then, he’s an editor of the classic mold, content to stay in the background and let the spotlight shine upon authors such as William Styron, Calvin Trillin, Edmund Morris, Maya Angelou, Shelby Foote, Jonathan Harr and Pete Dexter.
“About 25 years ago, I began to think, ‘I’m a stick in the mud,'” Loomis told an audience of close to a hundred – including many of the authors he helped launch to stardom – in the trustees room of the New York Public Library last week, at a tribute celebrating his 50 years at Random House. “‘Why wasn’t I moving on?'” Why wasn’t he like so many other editors jumping from house to house in search of bigger, better opportunities? Because, simply put, he loved his authors too much, and if one needed years to write a book, he’d wait patiently for the finished product. But as for the retirement question, Loomis is quick to shrug it aside. “It makes people nervous.” He will always be attached to Random House, he said.